Haas is done with Schumacher Jr, waiting until the weekend of the final race of the season before giving the young star his marching orders.
We suspected it might happen, and now the Haas F1 Team has made it official. America's only F1 team has decided not to renew Mick Schumacher's contract, which has just expired, and will replace him with Nico Hulkenberg. That means that this weekend's Abu Dhabi season finale could be Schumacher Junior's last F1 race.
Hulkenberg is widely known as the most successful F1 driver that has never won a race. There's no doubt he's a talented driver, but after 181 career starts, he has yet to win a Grand Prix. Over his career, he has amassed 521 points, one pole position, and two fastest laps. His best finish is fourth, which he managed three times. When he's not helping develop hypercars, he also daily drives a 911 GT2 RS, and we respect that.
His last full-time position was with the Renault F1 Team (now Alpine), but he is race fit. He's currently employed as a reserve driver for Aston Martin and stood in for Sebastian Vettel at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and again at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
"I'm naturally very pleased to be welcoming Nico Hulkenberg back to a full-time racing role in Formula 1," said Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team. "The experience and knowledge base Nico brings to the team is clear to see - with nearly 200 career starts in Formula 1 - and a reputation as being a great qualifier and a solid, reliable racer. These are attributes, which when you pair them together with Kevin Magnussen's experience, gives us a very credible and well-seasoned driver line-up which we believe will help push the team onwards up the grid."
Hulkenberg seems to be raring to go, and he doesn't have long to wait. "I'm excited to have the opportunity to do what I love the most again and want to thank Gene [Haas] and Guenther [Steiner] for their trust," said the German driver. "We have work ahead of us to be able to compete with all the other teams in the midfield, and I cannot wait to join that battle again."
Presumably, he and now-teammate Magnussen, who have clashed in the past, have moved on from their petty disagreements.
This news leaves us with a massive elephant in the room, which also happens to be German, and everyone wants to know what's happening to him next year. It's sad, but that's the unfortunate side of F1 racing. If you don't deliver what the team expects, you can't bet on a seat for the following season. Daniel Ricciardo finds himself in a similar position.
Mick Schumacher is talented, but perhaps he made the jump too soon because his surname is highly profitable. It's much easier selling livery space when there's a Schumacher behind the wheel. In 2021, he scored zero points, but at least he didn't finish 21st out of 20 drivers like his infamous teammate, Nikita Mazepin.
Haas's move can be seen as harsh because Schumacher's performance has been decent this year, and he's often been a victim of poor strategy calls from the pit wall, not to mention a promising car that never really seemed to get going. He'll finish the season on 12 points, level with Yuki Tsunoda and just two points shy of Lance Stroll. He's also outscored Zhou Guanyu, Alexander Albon, and Nicolas Latifi.
Unfortunately, Schumacher also caused a lot of damage this year, as did numerous other drivers, it must be said. But for a team with such tight financial constraints, it's a particularly big burden to bear, and Haas has opted to rely on experience rather than raw talent. But will the team be able to produce a competitive car with so many driver changes, each of whom may have different expectations for how the car should behave? We'll find out soon, and hopefully, Mick's future will be secured soon too.
Schumacher released a statement on his social media channels, which you can find above. He's obviously disappointed but states that he's going to fight hard to get back into the sport after the end of this season, ending the statement with "PTW" (prove them wrong), referring to his critics.
While we're on the subject of unwanted drivers, Latifi was ditched by Williams a few weeks ago, and that seat is the only one remaining on the grid. Could Mick take that place? Well, F1 hopeful Logan Sargeant is set to take that seat, but only if he scores the few remaining points he needs to acquire his FIA Super License. If he doesn't, Schumacher could be in with a shot. Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team boss Toto Wolff is a big fan of the youngest Schumacher, and he has a lot of sway at Williams...